AWL: pro-party rival?

Peter Morton doesn't believe that the Alliance for Workers' Liberty was every serious about transforming the Socialist Alliance into a party

This short report of the May 25 meeting, ‘Continuing what the Socialist Alliance started out to do’, organised by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty at the University of London Union, will appear a bit one-sided, as I have not attempted to produce everyone else’s arguments - they can do so much better themselves.

Present were up to 15 AWLers, including leading comrades Sean Matgamna and Martin Thomas, a couple of Socialist Alliance independents (Phil Pope, and Pauline from Haringey), and Steve Freeman and myself from the Revolutionary Democratic Group.

The meeting was opened by Martin Thomas. Giving us a summary of current developments in the SA, he stressed the central importance of the Galloway issue for the AWL, and how the Socialist Workers Party was using it to pull the SA away from having its own fringe meetings at trade union conferences in favour of involvement in Galloway support rallies. He also alluded to the attempt at SA conference to create a Campaign for a Workers’ Party (CWP), but said that this idea originated with the Workers Power group, who were now rumoured to be deprioritising the SA in their activities. He seemed therefore to be dismissing the idea, at least for the purpose of the meeting.

Comrade Thomas concluded his remarks by stating that the AWL should map out a positive political platform around which people can organise to retrieve what the SA was originally about: eg, to put up “independent working class socialist candidates”. This opened the way for the first motion to be put, by comrade Matgamna - which is where I became confused. Was I in a meeting to decide AWL policy, or was I unwittingly being inducted into an AWL front, to rival any CWP initiatives currently being worked out?

Comrade Matgamna’s motion begins: “This meeting resolves to work towards a ‘Network for Working Class Political Representation/Independent Socialist Alliance’ as a grouping within the Socialist Alliance.” The motion is quite long, as it includes a political platform proposed for the new network. The platform may be amended in time for a projected launch meeting in a couple of months, and does include a clause to maintain comradely relations with others and “participate in the ‘May 3 committee’” to create a CWP. This motion is a fair presentation of AWL politics and rhetoric at the present time.

After being treated to a few AWL speakers reiterating some of comrade Matgamna’s arguments, I questioned whether the purpose of this motion was a relaunch of the AWL (perhaps under the above named ‘network’), or the launch of an AWL front. I said I was not convinced that this was not the AWL’s version of the SWP resolution to SA conference on the future of the alliance. A motion that spins a cover for the AWL pursuing their own agenda in competition with other minority initiatives.

One of the main themes was the popular frontism the SWP is pulling the SA into, with plenty of mention of Galloway, and the rumoured ‘Peace and Justice’ Euro candidate plan in Birmingham, involving the Stop the War Coalition and the head of Birmingham mosques. The politics in the motion were to counter this popular frontism. I said that many, perhaps all, those who gathered round the CWP initiative at SA conference could agree with that, but comrade Matgamna doubted if the CPGB could. Unfortunately the CPGB did not send any representatives (or apologies), who could have clarified this question.

Comrade Matgamna also said that a slogan for “working class representation” was more appropriate than for a workers’ party. He could be right, but surely the party question was forced upon us at conference by current conditions.

Steve Freeman argued for unity between the pro-party groups (AWL, CPGB, RDG), but comrade Matgamna replied that these are propaganda groups who cannot unite if they are putting out radically different propaganda.

The meeting took a short break and when we returned voting took place. The RDG elected not to vote (including not abstaining), as we did not want to endorse the process that it may now be claimed was taking place in that room. It was never made clear what was actually going on. Motion A was successfully amended by comrade Pope, by inserting the preamble to the meeting’s agenda document as the preamble to motion A. We then went quickly through four more motions - all, like motion A, being “overwhelmingly” passed.

Motion B demanded that the principle of MPs on a worker’s wage be a condition of entering any future ‘new coalition’. Motion C argues against a Euro election common slate with the nationalist Communist Party of Britain, in favour of “a bloc with forces such as Lutte Ouvrière and the LCR in France, and Rifondazione Comunista in Italy”. Motion D resolved to defend RDG supporters Danny Thompson and Jane Clarke against an SWP-instigated expulsion from the SA.

Motion E deplored the move not to have SA fringe meetings at this summer’s trade union conferences in favour of helping with George Galloway fringe meetings. The motion sought to establish contact with other SA union activists with a view to organising an “independent” SA presence. This motion was amended to include alliances with others (ie, outside the SA) to present “independent working class politics” at union conferences.

The final item was ‘Socialist responses to the BNP’. It was resolved to support the CPGB amendment at SA conference, and to work to oppose the fascists by campaigning in working class communities. SWP comrade Julie Waterson’s SA conference claim that only the middle class and “scum” on estates vote for the BNP was rejected by the meeting.

Finally the meeting selected Phil Pope and Martin Thomas to take responsibility to circulate the ‘statement’, which I think meant Motion A.

Afterwards there was a brief meeting of those present who are on the ‘May 3 committee’ - Martin Thomas and Gerry Byrne of the AWL; Steve Freeman and myself of the RDG; and Phil Pope. It was agreed that the next step was an e-list, and coopting certain others onto the committee.